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White Noise

By Rebecca Thomas

White noise is sound, especially of a continuous kind, that seems to have no pattern or rhythm - Collins Dictionary

It must be a challenging task for schools in their recovery mode to know which drum beat to dance to. Planning a strategic direction for 2023 and beyond with so much noise from the media and Ministry could be confusing: The Literacy Crisis; NCEA changes; wellbeing; absenteeism; modern learning environments; de-streaming; Structured Literacy…just some of the challenges and changes facing our leaders - none of them are small bones to chew on.

How do you know which noise to listen to? How do you know which strategic direction will close the equity gap and help our learners be ready for what lies ahead?

Usually one would start by looking at the data.

What are those figures telling you? What picture are they painting?

Think critically about those figures for a moment, there could be any number of reasons for their story. We have, after all, only just begun to regain traction from a pretty traumatic two year interruption. Remember that this cohort of children before you are different. Along with these figures are narratives, voices from within.

Before you plot your course perhaps begin your journey like a navigator, instead of jumping straight to pilot mode reading instruments of measure.

#Step 1 - Dead reckoning

Understand your present place in order to understand where you are going. Dead reckoning involves estimating a current position based on a past position. Dead reckoning factors in speed, time, and direction of travel. When used in sailing, it does not take into account wind speeds or ocean currents. However, the only reference point in dead reckoning is the past position.

Consider your past position, factor in the last two years of disruption - don't dwell on it, or let it consume you in excuses, but do factor it into your decisions in order to begin plotting your course.

# Step 2 - Celestial Navigation

For sailors, celestial navigation is a step up from dead reckoning. This technique uses the stars, moon, sun, and horizon to calculate position. It is very useful on the open ocean, where there are no landmarks.

Let the stars be our children who deserve some room to shine; talk to them, interact with them and find out what is really behind the numbers you are staring at.

The moon and sun are constant, old and wise, they are the reassuring adults in and around the school who like shepherds have kept a careful eye on their flock.

The horizon is where you are aiming to go. The higher the observer becomes the lower and more distant the horizon is, so come down to a level where your people are, don’t be distracted by lofty towers. It’s OK to have high aspirations for your people, in fact it matters, but don’t set your sights on a horizon only you can see.

#Step 3 - Piloting

Piloting relies on fixed visual references to determine position. This is probably the most familiar type of navigation (data). With this technique, the pilot must be able to recognize visual markers, or identify them using maps or charts. If the pilot misidentifies the markers, he or she could take the vessel off course.

Be sure when you ‘read’ your data you have considered step 1 and step 2 as well.

What Steve and I are recommending is to be mindful of how you move forward as captains of your ships. Reflect on where you’ve come from, hear the narratives of your people, then let the data support you as you begin your journey ahead, above all else don’t let the white noise distract you!

For further support, Steve and I will be sharing our insights and giving leaders advice at the next Leaders Connect event run by Leadership Lab: Never Surrender Your Story. Sign Up free here

You also might want to browse our new menu of 45 tools that will help you reflect and listen to voices of all in your community here.

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